Tag Archives: cattle

Leaving the Cattle yards

Leaving the cattle yards can sometimes be akin to leaving home, not all animals that come to a farm, leave the farm for the markets, become food  or to breed on other peoples farm. I have hand reared many an animal over the last few years and these ones have brought more satisfaction than most. It was at a time when I was struggling to understand why I was still here.

If it were not for the fact I was asked to help preserve these beautiful creatures, bottle feed them and care for them during drought and a very cold winter I couldn’t justify mentally why I was here. They will still come up and give me a lick when they see me or come within smelling distance.

I helped the farmer today separate them from the mobs they went to and they re met up with Annie and baby Jeremy, it was a sight to see and unfortunately I did not have my camera. When Annie smelt them she rubbed her head on each of them in recognition and they back, much like cousins or sisters do when they haven’t seen each other for a while. It was Annie and Jeremy’s fault they wander off and joined with the big girls now they are back with each other with a bull to start the breeding process, they are all 18 months old now. Jeremy would be almost 12 months and had a ring placed on his testicles so that he can not breed, he will become a steer and join the big boys later down the track.

No: 11 is Abby born on my birthday and our cousin Abby’s birthday, No 15 is Hope, No 6 is Delilah. Josie is the lamb and No2 is Rosie. This was when we were moving them to separate them.

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Moving the cattle

Most people thinking farming is about milking cows if you are a dairy, sheep , beef or cropping. One gets up everyday (early) to bring the cows in to milk or to get on a tractor and sow crop, reap or harvest crop sell it and make money. With sheep and cattle you just birth them and sell them off for meat, very little thought is given to the process and to the hours of work and skill required to do any of the above jobs.

On the TV we see farmers in “cowboy hats” riding horses, driving utes, mustering in helicopters, on foot and on motorbikes, it looks so inviting. There is always the working dog running around looking like it’s seemlessly and intuitively working the mobs and being part of the teams. They just push the animals along and they move to where they want them to go. The scenery (when not in drought) looks green and there’s red dirt, brown dirt, sand and grass. It looks inviting and it looks like easy work for those doing the muster and the bulk of the footage is soundless or narrated over.

There is a reason why there is no sound,  not only would you hear the sounds of cattle, you would hear lots of swearing farmers and workers, there would be shouting / swearing at dogs, horses, the cattle and anyone or anything in the nearest vicinity. Loudly and often, it really is a stressful job, to move a mob of cattle be it 2, 10, 100 or more takes a great deal of skill and patience. One does not want to push them too fast – they will run and froth at the mouth and become distressed too quickly. One does not want to split them up if they are in groups as they like to travel in groups much like families, you do not want to mis-mother, meaning if the cow has a calf and they get separated both become distressed and will turned back to look for each other or worse move on and leave it behind.

I have had a knock at the door during the writing of this and I have been told 2 of our animals (steers) have found themselves 10km up the road in another property, they don’t have cattle and as we do they have come knocking to see if we can come and push them back. This may well take me the rest of the day to get them back here. I shall video part of my journey for you and place it on this post. My day started with calls and emails following up orders and now leads to following cattle back up the road to home.

These are some of the other rogues – wandering into the front yard with that look of “nothing to see here”despite leaving 2 behind.

nothing to see here

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Farmer Blaming

We love our animals here at Caloundra Station and we work 365 days of the year to ensure they are well cared for and happy. We have both cattle and lamb which we grow from birth to finish for meat production and I know some of you are turning your noses up at the thought. How can the animals we live with, respect and care for be sent off the farm to end up on plates around the world and it is difficult for us it truly is. I don’t know any farmer who is cruel to their animals, whether they are for meat production, dairy products, egg production and any of the other specialty area I have not chosen to name.

I note today there is Australia wide protest to ban live export (again) I can not see how for the life of us can people keep blaming the farmer. No farmer I know is an advocate of cruelty which is why many have changed practices over the years and work hard to give the animal the best life and death possible and within their scope of best practice. Whilst protesting is a right and a great way to get your views across where is the happy medium or balance in the argument. Some of you may even ask or say that we were not affected by the ban brought on by the 2011 reaction to cruelty, but we were.

Where did all of those animals go that were bred to go overseas? they came in to the local markets and dropped the prices and contracts that were in place for those that did not export live animals. were you aware that everyday farmers were affected? Companies held farmers off contract sales so they could make twice as much money on the cattle that were being shifted from up north to the south. Whilst people were congratulating themselves on stopping the export of live animals it did nothing to endear the industry to the public nor the farmers.

Farmers all over Australia lost income and were left carrying more stock over a summer than they wanted, this was not their fault and where was the reporters and Governments during this time. They were busy showing the same acts in another country rather than showing the desperation of farmers who were only doing their jobs losing property and income. Where was the pictures or statistics of the farmers who lost everything during this time, including the suicides that occured as this may have been their only option to earn an income and it was without warning taken from them and they were left with no where to go. There are big industries over Australia like the car industry that have announced closures, the money and education being given to these employees was never offered to the farmers or workers by Governments.

Our out cry at the time was not only about the acts, but also about the lack of education and as producers every animal on anyone’s property has to be tagged, and on that tag is a PIC number (property identification number) beef, goat and  lamb for traceability and not only do we have to pay for these ear tags, spend time putting them in without much stress to the animal and we also pay a levy to peak education bodies, why were they not involved before this incident? What have they done since? People have worked hard internationally to stamp it out by way of education and providing tools and equipment but to ask them to stamp it out will be a long drawn process.

We don’t want to see any animal treated badly but i would like to see the same passion put into stamping out domestic violence as there is to stop live export. if you would like to ban something come up with a solution for the farmer, we don’t grow and sell our animals ever with the intent that they will travel overseas and end up in the hands of others they may treat them badly. The supply chain may be 6 times more since leaving the farmer, yet the calls to stop the farming selling animals is loud and clear.

Not everyone wants to be vegetarian either, eating meat is a choice we are lucky to have in Australia and we know we can buy Australian meat that is humanely dealt with from start to finish. The ethical treatment of animals is a given in our lucky country so lets support those countries that need education to ensure all animals from Australia can be sent over the world and we know they will be treated in the same manner as they are here.

eating hay

No time like the present

If you farm you know how much time it takes up in your daily work life, from the minute you get up and get out of the house there is always something to do. We are not dairy farmers so there is no getting up at the crack of dawn unless insomnia has set in. Sometimes I am aware he is up and reading at this time and due to many different reasons. I see him worry in winter and summer about his animals, which is why he creates shelter belts, plants natives every year and checks every paddock for animals, water in trough and anyone who needs assistance with birthing.

He checks the weather on internet every morning and plans his day accordingly, there is normally a comment based on the weather map, some days it’s how can the BOM Bureau of Meterology get the weather so wrong, he comments like this when it’s summer and they predict rain and we don’t get any when we need it. He loves to show me the map, which I look at sometimes with dread, I never took note of weather until I became entangled with the farmer, now I appreciate it’s place in our daily lives. It’s like the naughty child, argumentative one day dark rain clouds threatening, positively bursting with excitement the next sunshine bursting through clouds, to the rainbow like a child sleeping and then rain happiness when you least expect it.

When I work off farm, I can leave before dawn and back after dark I can ask him what he did for the day and he’ll tell me not much , like yesterday. I wasn’t off farm working I was nursing a sore back which is better today. He spent a good part of 4 hours emptying one of the septic tanks, he discovered our pump was not working so he took it to the shed, and came back with another pump set it all up and then spent the next 3 hours digging up the outlet pipes and making sure it was ok before moving on to the next job. I watched him for a while and as he parked his Ute next to the animal nursery I could see him leaning in and patting the calves and the lamb. They of course thought he was bringing them milk but they are tame now, it warms my heart to see his gentle side.

Then he finishes that and off he goes into the paddocks and returns when he has finished. He comes in late afternoon and is doing stretches and I ask if he’s ok, he tells me he was out checking cattle when he saw a cow with a calf that appeared stuck partially out so he (on foot) chased it down and grabbed a leg (of the baby) and as the cow was walking away he managed to get a rope around it and get it’s head out, cleared the sack from the calves mouth and continued to pull until the calf was half out and the cow was still trying to run away and as the calf hit the ground – the cow ran and the calf started breathing. He then had to get into the Ute and turn the cow around so she would go back to bond with her calf, he got her within a couple of feet of the calf and she sniffed and identified immediately it was hers. He then said that the calf had attempted to get up a couple of times and he drove off, as he said he didn’t have time to hang around and assist. I don’t know what he calls that but that is impressive.

For a farmer to tell you he hasn’t done much is like saying the Doctor only saw 15 patients today instead of the 30 or more he probably did. I go back to a saying I have read many times on face book where they show a fantastic picture of a farm and small child leaning on a fence and it says “what’s a day off? I don’t know we’re farmers” which is true there really is not much opportunity to rest. As he says to me “weekends and public holidays are for the general public not farmers” .

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Today is brought to you by 3am and 4am slaughter hour

The farmer is an animal lover and as such has cats, dogs, cattle, sheep and anything else that comes along. One day he sent me a photo of two baby foxes he saw living in our cattle yards and I banned him from bringing them home. We have a property that has kangaroos and he won’t go out and kill them because they eat minimal crops, he will occasionally shoot predatory birds that peck at baby animals that are being born so other than that most animals are welcomed into our home. I am currently hand rearing 2 calves Rosie & Delila and a Lamb – Josie who now live in my vegetable garden

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We also have the 3 lovely shed cats (called this because he found them in the shed and they now don’t live there) rescued from a freezing winter in 2009, Gatsby (a ginger cat)was rescued 2 years ago this month. All of them are desexed as I didn’t want excess of litters all over the farm and in the cold months of winter (and the hot days of summer) they live inside.

Many a night we have had parades of mice: alive and dead, rabbits: alive and dead birds alive and dead, bats 99% alive, gecko’s mainly alive that we have put outside and frill neck Lizards alive that leave alive as the cats have not worked out how to get through their tough exterior and frill when they protest. Our motto is that if we catch any of these things alive we lock the cats inside and let the animals go free outside.

Many a night I have woken to the sound of crunching and am so none fussed about it now I roll over and go back to sleep. If we hear noises we will get out of bed to try to chase the cats outside with the animal intact. Other times there is a “look at me, look at me” flinging and rolling with the animal (dead) in the spa bath. Where the cat shows us the prey and then eventually the creature is left intact and we are left to clean up the mess.

We have watched as these cats over-estimate their abilities and their prey – the farmer has seen Frankie stalking a kangaroo (as if she was ever going to catch it) we have seen Gatsby jumping in the air to catch swooping birds as if they were going to fly into his mouth, Matilda has on a few occasions stalked the chooks when we use to let them out, the chooks are confined to their pen as the working dogs try to round them up and chase them till they die.

I don’t mind it during the day but in the middle of the night I could do with out it, you know when you have to get up early, you set your alarm and you wake almost hourly hoping you don’t miss it? That was last nigh t and I was back into sleeping when I could hear a growling, at first I asked the farmer to roll over as I thought he was snoring  loudly so he did but the noise got louder and I realized it was coming from his wardrobe.

Bloody Cats fighting in the wardrobe, so I spring out of bed, turn on the lounge room light so as not to blind myself or the farmer but to shine light on the area, open the door and see nothing, I move clothes around to see if I can catch them hiding but I see nothing, so I shut the doors, stoke the fire and as I go to turn off the light I see 3 cats casually walking around the lounge room, squinting at the light with the innocent look of no it wasn’t me, I glare at them as I go to back to bed, it’s 3am. I’m back sleeping when the slow and loud growling starts up again, this time I’m cross I jump out of bed, step on the remote control, stub my toe on a laundry basket I have left in the way, go out to the fire, pick up the poker and come back to the wardrobe and one by one open the doors and thrash it about (hoping I can collect one of these cats as I do it). I look to see Gatsby’s tail disappear out of the wardrobe and run around the corner to get away and Rita slowly slink out heading towards the door. I shut the wardrobe put the poker on the floor and go back to bed, I note it’s now 4am.

Gatsby the only male

Gatsby the only male

Both of these cats go outside and as I drift back to sleep I become aware Gatsby is back in, he has jumped on my foot, shaken himself off as he is as wet as anything and flops down on my bed at my feet. When I do get up at 5am I note Matilda is standing by the wardrobe door, sniffing and I begin to think perhaps the other two were fighting over a late night slaughter. I didn’t have time to check before I left the house and I bet whatever it is will still be there when I get home this evening.

We have a spot I call slaughter corner, where some mornings we can wake up to find no evidence of the animal except a blood stained wall. We occasionally have a kidney or the bottom half of a mouse, if it’s a rabbit sometimes I get the entire gastrointestinal tract with pooh intact. Feathers of a bird are common and is the foot or tail of a rabbit. These can also be found out by the cat flap if they can’t carry it in or in the spa bath if we don’t hear them. Anything and everything is foul and I wish they would stop, once I asked the farmer “what’s with the green feathers in the corner?” without missing a beat he said “I didn’t like that grass parrot anyway!”

I occasionally say to birds, “You all need to live 1km away from the house as these cats will get you if you are closer. I feel exhausted before I even left the farm, getting home tonight will be a bit of a struggle, it is about 220km’s away.

3 cats on the car

3 cats on the car Rita on roof, Matilda in front of steering wheel & Frankie other side

Old Broads and Farming

The farmer didn’t like my post yesterday, he thinks I have no understanding of what we do here on the farm, when it comes to drought management and animal husbandry. Having been with him for 13 years (I know a long time) I have marveled at how he manages the farm, the cattle, the sheep and the crops. I have long stated I won’t have time to learn what he has forgotten when it comes to farming, business planning and management of animals.

Why did he take offense? because he’s thinks the work he does I don’t see and when I comment it’s a criticism of his abilities and it’s not. It is far from it, he doesn’t see that I worry about the animals that I can’t help with, other than the odd assistance or (slavery as I call it) I can help with lamb marking, putting rings on tails & testicles, whilst vaccinating them, I am no good at crutching or shearing. We rely on our great mate Ronnie to come and help pick up, put up and as a team we can do over 300 in a day. It’s hard yakka, bending, lifting, drafting (I can do this as well) we manage to work together and enjoy each others company (thanks Ronnie).

I can help with ear tagging the cattle, mustering and weighing, I can’t do the ringing of testicles as the size of these animals scare me and he gets to them young enough they are only about 200 kilo so it’s not so hard. When we ear tag them we have to put them in the race, head bale them (hold their heads with metal doors) whilst I grab their right ear and pierce it and put the legislated ear tag in it. Boy they can make a large noise as they bellow in protest, it’s the same as having ones ear pierced.

I have watched over the summer months as he has gone outside to check waters in troughs and dams, if they are out of water he has to locate the problem and fix it. We spent the best part of one Christmas day – missing lunch with my family to dig up water pipes clear them and wait for the troughs to fill over the farm in 40 degree heat (104 fahrenheit). Cattle and sheep can die without water in one day in this sort of heat.

I have watched him go out and feed hay to animals when our feed has declined, I see him jumping on and off a hay trailer whilst the ute is moving slowly so as to spread out the hay to keep animals fed. He does this every day maintaining the quality of our animals and their food source. I have watched him and gone with him checking things over our 5000 acres, I have taken him drinks and lunch whilst he is sowing, reaping, raking and fencing. We have spent weekends planting up to 3000 trees per year to give animals shelter belts and to re-vegetate tops of hills that blow with sand.

I have adapted to farming and I do have a deep love of what it is I don’t see and I don’t have the passion nor the drive for all of it like he does. I rarely criticise anything he does as I am aware he drives heavy machinery, he can build a shearing shed from plans drawn up with Ronnie on a scrap piece of paper,  he can swear like a farmer (as only they can) at anything and everything, he can care deeply for small animals which is why I am hand rearing 2 calves & a lamb currently.

How to shut me up – sorry Chris it won’t happen.

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Welcome to the ‘Caloundra’ Menagerie

Following from yesterday everyday on the farm is different, brings many new experiences and things to do, some of them good and some of them bad. Late yesterday afternoon I was sitting doing book work (there is always book work) when I hear the Beeeeeeeeeeeep beeeeeeeeeeeeeep of the Ute. It roars around the back of the house and I realize he is looking to get my attention, which he got, so by the time he is out of the Ute I am out of the back door. I have not got to pull my work boots on (we leave work shoes out of the house to lessen the dirt being walked in) when he yells “I have a calf for you to feed”. I stop what I am doing and head back into the kitchen, pull over the chair and get into the top cupboard to reach for bottles, get to the plastics drawer (always a shambles) and shuffle through to find the teats and the screw tops that hold the teats down. I then get the powdered formula read the instructions and run the water till it’s warm (they drink warm milk like they would from their mum – they don’t like cold milk and mix up enough for about 4 feeds. I have no idea how old it is but am guessing it may be 1 to 4 days old.

All of the dogs get interested when they see the bottle, they know it contains milk, I sometimes in the freezing of winter give them warm milk on their dog nuts in order to boost their weight and give them energy for the work they do during the day.  So they know what the bottle contains, Pete the Golden retriever follows me to the specially made secure arena Chris built years ago to protect them from dogs and other wild life, confine them, so we know where they are and it’s easier to feed them and to give them security, they have a wind break and it can hold up to 4 or 5 without an issue.

He is a tiny one, I know it’s a baby bull as the pizzle is evident, this is the small tuff of hair that hangs in the middle of the abdomen where the penis comes out when it’s older. Cows don’t have this for obvious reasons. He arrives mooing loudly, with a blue-collar on him which indicates the farmer had identified him earlier as being solo in the paddocks, so he would have placed him with cows that looked like they had calved and hoped that he re mothered up, so bringing him here is a last resort. They can do well-being hand reared or they sometimes die. Cattle are herd animals and as such form bonds of friendship and love, so having them solo always makes it a struggle to survive especially in this weather. he also has a cord attached to the collar where the farmer would have been able to lead him (much like a dog on a leash) to the Ute and then into the pen.

I feel his stomach it is full, so that is good he probably has had some colostrum from his mum and started building up his immune system, this is similar in colour (yellowish) and consistency (think) much like a human mum. It’s also important for the calf to have had it, though they can do as well if they do not get it. I take the lead off him and leave the collar on, he makes very loud noises at me and I walk slowly to him and place my finger in his mouth, this is to see if he has a suckling mechanism happening. If they are hungry they latch on and suck if they are tiny and not quite initiated to their mothers teats they try to push your finger away with their tongue. He had a small suckling reflex so I rub my finger on his upper palate and he starts to do the motion, I get about 50 mils into him.

He follows me as I walk out and then goes to sit down, having a mooing calf in the yards brings a tribe of onlookers – mainly the cats and Pete the Retriever, they do not see these beautiful animals up close often so when they do they are curious. They circle the cage and climb trees to look at what is going on. He is a very gentle calf, sometimes they bunt you and chase you for food but he did not. I then sent out a request for a name to nieces and nephews, I like to name them as I get to spend much time with them feeding them.

We have lots of great options for his name but on face book the one that got the most ticks was from my niece Naomi, he shall be now known as “Jack”

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